Cultural Linguistics Research Group

Cultural Linguistics is a multidisciplinary field of research that explores the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations. 

Resources on Cultural Linguistics

Researchers

Professor Farzad Sharifian

Dr Alice Gaby

Dr Hui Huang

Dr Zhichang Xu

Associate Professor Sarah McDonald

Dr Howard Manns

Dr Gabriel Garcia Ochoa

Associate Professor Chandani Lokuge

Professor Ross Mouer

Dr Anna Gladkova

Dr Nadine Normand-Marconnet

Dr Robyn Spence-Brown

Dr Meredith Bartlett

Dr Yanying Lu

Some current projects

Conceptualisations of life, fate, and the Universe in Khayyam’s Rubaiyat: A Cultural Linguistics perspective

Chief Investigator: Prof. Farzad Sharifian

This project explores conceptualisations (both cultural and idiosyncratic) of life, fate, and the Universe in Omar Khayyam’s Rubayiat. In particular, if focuses on the themes of life is too short; enjoy the moment; our fates are pre-destined; and the Creation is a secret (to us). For example, a particular Rubayi uses the metaphors of the Universe as a caravanserai, the Universe as a banquet, and the Universe as a palace. Rubayiat refers to mythological figures in Persian history, such as [king] Jamshid, as well as real people, such as the king, Bahram V (Bahram Gur). The life histories of these figures provide cultural schemas that are resources for many literary works in Persian. For example, Jamshid had the Jâm-e Jam, or Jâm-e Jahân namâ, a seven-ringed cup representing the seven heavens of the Universe. The cup was filled with the elixir of immortality and was used as a crystal ball in divination and allowed Jamshid to observe the Universe, including the seven heavens.  Certain Rubayis (quatrains) draw on the cultural proposition schema: HUMAN FATE IS PREDESTINED AND IT IS WRITTEN ON OUR FOREHEAD. This belief dates back to the Proto-Indo Iranian religion, which existed prior to Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, before Khayyam was writing. Overall, the findings of the project reveal that the analytical framework of Cultural Linguistics provides a set of robust tools for in-depth explorations of poetry.

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Project title: Improving Communication with Aboriginal English Speakers: A Study of cultural conceptualisations in Aboriginal English

Chief Investigator: Prof Farzad Sharifian

The project explores cultural conceptualisations in Aboriginal English. Often unfamiliarity with Aboriginal cultural conceptualisations on the part of non-Aboriginal people leads to miscommunication, disadvantaging Aboriginal speakers, especially in institutional contexts (for example, schoolrooms, courtrooms, Centrelink offices). The aim of this study is to alleviate such problems, and significantly advance Aboriginal English research, by exploring culturally constructed conceptualisations, in particularly cultural-conceptual metaphor, underlying the use of Aboriginal English, using the the analytical tools of Cultural Linguistics. The study will also make a significant contribution to the development of Cultural Linguistics.

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Conceptualisations of PRIDE in Persian

Researchers: Farzad Sharifian & Marzieh Sadeghpour

This project explores cultural conceptualizations of pride in Persian English, an emerging variety of English, from the perspective of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017). Data for this study were collected from a number of online sources (e.g., weblogs, social media sites, and news websites) and a questionnaire. The analysis of the data revealed that L1 Persian speakers associate the English word ‘pride’ with some of the conceptualizations of qorur ‘pride/vanity’ and eftekhâr ‘pride’ in Persian. In contrast to its use in relation to others, self-reflexive qorur is predominantly negatively sanctioned as the word may be used to refer to a cultural category of emotion that is associated with the egoistic tendencies of excessive self-praise. This emotion cultural category is also conceptualised metaphorically as qorur is a fragile object.

Beyond the level of the individual, ‘pride’, usually encoded in words such as eftekhâr and qorur, is often used to refer to a positive emotion category where, for example, achievements by an individual member of the group (family, region, or country) lifts the collective face of the group, and therefore the members of the group feel proud of that individual, or refer to the positive feeling of pride that one feels due to being a member of a group due to its history, achievement, etc. like ‘national pride’ or qorur-e meli.

Current PhD projects

Project title and description: Conceptualisations of SADNESS in Persian. (M. Bagheri)

This study explores linguistic expressions of sadness and their underlying cultural conceptualisations in Persian, using the theoretical and analytical frameworks of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017). It is based on the premise that emotions are not universal but ‘ongoing, dynamic, and interactive processes that are socially [and culturally] constructed’ (Boiger and Mesquita 2012: 221). A variety of sources including Persian online data, narratives, and a questionnaire were utilized to address the following research questions: a) Which words, expressions, and metaphors are associated with expressing sadness in Persian?, b)  Which cultural conceptualisations (schemas, categories, and metaphors) inform the verbal expressions of sadness in Persian, and c) what is the link (if there are any)_between the cultural conceptualisations of sadness and social-cultural factors, such as gender and religion? Analysis of the data have so far revealed that the verbal expressions of sadness in Persian are informed by conceptualisations which are culturally constructed. Additionally, the results demonstrated that these conceptualisations are distributed heterogeneously (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) across the individuals in the Persian speaking community. Finally, a number of socio-cultural factors such as religion, history, media, gender, and age were found to have a role in shaping the cultural conceptualisations of sadness in Persian.

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Project title and description: Address Terms in academic email communication: A study of student-to-academic staff emails in Australia. (A. Hadi)

Address terms play a significant part in interpersonal and intercultural communication, and are closely associated with politeness norms across cultures. Previous research has revealed that the choice of address terms may be often influenced by factors such as the interlocutors’ relationship, the speakers’ intentions, the formality of the context, the topic of conversation, and social variables such as gender, age, and education. However, the influence of ‘culture’ on the choice of address terms in ‘academic emails’ has only been marginally investigated. As such, this study adopts Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) as a framework to explore email communication in general and terms of address in particular. The study relies on naturalistic email communication as data, as well as semi-structured interviews with both students and lecturers. The email communication data is used to examine the patterns of use of address terms. The interviews explore the participants’ perceptions of the use of various address terms, their personal attitudes towards being addressed in certain ways in their capacity as academics, as well as the extent to which the practice and perceptions of address terms in academic email communications are associated with the interlocutors’ cultural conceptualisations.

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Project title and descriptionInvestigating the Transcultural Creativity of Second Generation Migrant Writers in Australia. (N. Fang)

This thesis examines the transcultural creativity (as opposed to ‘bilinguals’ creativity’ though not exclusively of) in Second Generation Migrant writing in Australia.  As writers from the Inner Circle, SGMW do not seem to fit the category of writing in World Englishes even though many may be bi/multilingual or possess schemas highly saturated in their heritage cultures (though they may only speak English).  Taking the theoretical frameworks of World Englishes and Cultural Linguistics, this thesis investigates the transcultural creativity of SGMW with data sourced from selected texts from Alice Pung, Benjamin Law, and Randa Abdel-Fattah.  It will examine what linguistic strategies these authors use to creatively manipulate the language to depict culture-specific situations.  Questionnaires and Interviews will also be employed to investigate reader responses to the transcultural creativity of the texts and the authors’ perspectives and creative processes.

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Project title and description: Cultural Conceptualisations of Animals in Persian and English. (V. Nosrati)

Over the years there has been an interest in research about the cultural conceptualisations of schemas, metaphors, idioms, and symbols within different frameworks such as body organs, emotions, family, and kinship, but studies on animal expressions are few (e.g. Sharifian, 2011; Sharifian et al., 2008; Xu, 2014). Animal expressions have slowly become a significant member of the basic lexical items of many languages in the world and they have their own features and cultural conceptualisations which can result in misunderstanding in cross-cultural communication. Some of the cultural concepts of animals are the same, but most of them are different and make the vacancies between the languages. As an instance, a gutless individual may be referred as chickenhearted in English, and goat-hearted in Persian. When the meanings of words in two languages are assumed to be the same, but actually reflect different cultural patterns, it will lead to a great deal of cross-cultural misunderstanding. Because of these discrepancies, the differences and similarities of the cultural beliefs carried by the animal expressions should be taken into account. Therefore, this study is an attempt to focus closely on the identification of conceptualisations that might be specific to the culture of Persian and English language users through employing the analytical tools of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) to unpack the cultural conceptualisations (cultural schemas, cultural categories, and cultural metaphors) of animals in these speech communities.

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Project title and description: Cultural Conceptualisations of Life and Death metaphors in Rumi’s Mathnavi. (S. Hozhabrossadat)

 This study examines cultural conceptualisations of Life and Death metaphors in Mathnavi (Complete six books) using the theoretical and analytical frameworks of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017). The study is motivated by an increasing number of Rumi readers all over the world, and specifically in Western contexts (Tompkins, 2002). Furthermore, the dearth of empirical research that addresses conceptual metaphors and their cultural roots in a literary context adds to the significance of such a study. There are four research questions in this study that look at the cultural schemas, categories, and metaphors of Life and Death. Moreover, the study seeks to find out possible external cultural influences on such conceptualisations. The study is conducted through the compilation of the corpus, identification of the metaphors, and the cultural analysis. The preliminary results of the data analysis suggested both universal and culturally-specific conceptualisations which are going to be coded for further future analysis.

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Project title and description: Cultural Conceptualisations of SHAME in Persian. (S Ghazi)

The area of emotion expression and conceptualisation play important roles in cross-cultural communication. This thesis aims at unpacking the cultural conceptualisation of the emotion “shame” in Persian. Various sources of data including everyday language, literary works, and dictionaries and encyclopaedias are being used as samples to provide a set of lexical items and expressions related to the domain of “shame” in Persian. The study adopts Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) as an analytical and theoretical framework to explore what cultural metaphors, values, and attitudes are associated with the emotion of “shame” among Persian speakers, along with an investigation on the influence that variables such as gender and religion have on its conceptualisation and expression in Persian culture.

 

 

Cultural Linguistics: A new multidisciplinary field of research

Cultural Linguistics

Cultural Linguistics is a multidisciplinary field of research that explores the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations. 

New books:

Sharifian, F. (in press-2017a). Cultural Linguistics. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. [book flyer]

Sharifian, F. (2017b). Advances in Cultural Linguistics. London/New York/Singapore: Springer. [google preview] [book flyer]

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The opening keynote address of the First Cultural Linguistics International Conference (CLIC2016), Prato, Italy.

An interview with Professor Farzad Sharifian

Two recent articles on Cultural Linguistics:

Sharifian, F. (2017). Cultural Linguistics and linguistic relativity.Language Sciences59, 83-92

Musolff, Andreas (2015). Metaphor Interpretation and Cultural Linguistics.Language and Semiotic Studies, 1(3), pp. 35-51.

download an assessment of Cultural Linguistics 

Watch a recent keynote speech on Cultural Linguistics

New book series on Cultural Linguistics (Springer) [watch the video of the launch of the book series by Springer]

The First Cultural Linguistics International Conference (The Second Cultural Linguistics International Conference (CLIC2018) will be in Landau, Germany, jointly with a LAUD symposium)

A university course on Cultural Linguistics[download the syllabus]

Chinese translation of Cultural Linguistics

An introductory bibliography on Cultural Linguistics

Subscribe to the cultural-linguistics-list

facebook page of Cultural Linguistics

Cultural Linguistics Research Group

Typographical conventions in Cultural Linguistics

Journals and book series

Handbook

 Scholarship in Cultural Linguistics

Scope

Cultural Linguistics draws on and expands the theoretical and analytical advancements in  several disciplines and sub-disciplines, such as cognitive psychology, Complexity Science, Distributed Cognition, and anthropology.

For Cultural Linguistics, many features of human languages are entrenched in cultural conceptualisations such as cultural schemas, cultural categories and cultural metaphors.

Fig. 4. Cultural conceptualisations and language [Source: Sharifian (2017a)]

 

Applications of Cultural Linguistics have enabled fruitful investigations of the cultural grounding of language in several applied domains such as World Englishes, intercultural communication, Teaching of English as an International Language (TEIL), and political discourse analysis. Research carried out within these applied areas has shed significant light on the nature of the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations.

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key publications in Cultural Linguistics:

Sharifian, F. (2017a). Cultural Linguistics. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cultural Linguistics provides a brilliant overview over the theoretical foundations, analytical dimensions, and practical applications of the emergent framework of studying language as a dynamic system instantiating cultural conceptualisations. By linking new, ground-breaking theoretical and methodological models with linguistic examples from languages on all continents and from intercultural communication (and miscommunication), Farzad Sharifian opens new perspectives on linguistic relativity, metaphor studies, pragmatics, emotion research, religious and political discourses, World Englishes and Teaching English as an International Language. The research programme of Cultural Linguistics is truly under way.” Prof, Andreas Musolff, University of East Anglia

 
“Cultural Linguistics represents an important milestone in the development of research into the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations. It provides the reader with a detailed discussion of the theoretical and analytical frame-work of Cultural Linguistics.The work includes in-depth discussions of the instruments of analysis which are being utilized by this increasingly influential approach to unravelling the way that language, culture,and conceptualisation are inter-twined. In short, I consider this work to be the most important contribution to the emergingfield of Cultural Linguistics to date.”
Prof. Roslyn M. FrankThe University of Iowa

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Sharifian, F. (2011)Cultural Conceptualisations and Language: Theoretical Framework and Applications. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.clscc_1_hbFrom several reviews of “Sharifian, Farzad (2011), Cultural Conceptualisations and Language: Theoretical Framework and Applications. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.”

 

1) “By drawing on and expanding the theoretical advancements and analytical tools of a number of disciplines and research paradigms, including cognitive linguistics,  anthropological linguistics, distributed cognition, complexity science, cognitive psychology, and cognitive anthropology, Sharifian lays solid theoretical and analytical grounds for what can be recognised as Cultural Linguistics. Sharifian successfully navigates the reader through a multiplicity of premises, findings and models of numerous fields of research and analytical paradigms. These are used as the foundation on which his coherent multidisciplinary approach builds, utilizing the apparatus of cognitive linguistics in the study of core areas of/in human communication.[…] The basic merit of the book is that the author, in his capacity as both an insider (emic) and an objective analyst (etic), takes the reader on a fascinating journey across a multiplicity of patterns of human interaction (from responding to compliments to translating highly sensitive political discourses). Sharifian convincingly illustrates that successful communication depends, to a very large extent, on the enhanced metacultural competence of the participants.[…] The volume successfully promotes the development of Cultural Linguistics as a multidisciplinary theoretical and applied paradigm of linguistic research. The novelty of the offered approach lies in the comprehensive harmonization which the author accomplishes in the treatment of problems and issues that have long haunted the fields of ecolinguistics (Crystal 2000), ethnolinguistics (Mathiot 1979), anthropological linguistics (Foley 1997; Duranti 2004),cultural linguistics (Palmer 1996), studying cultures through their key words (Wierbicka 1997) and research on the Sapir-Whorf relativity principle. […] The reader will spend a few pleasant days delving into the intricacies of a “new linguistic world opened up by the cultural linguistic perspective. This is not a world to be exploited so much as it is a world to be appreciated, and, since it is our everyday world, it is a world desperately in need of mending and healing by greater cross-cultural understanding and tolerance” (Palmer 1996: 296). Sharifian’s book Cultural conceptualizations and language is a major step in this direction.” — Alexandra Bagasheva, in Language and Cognition, Vol. 4:3 (2012), pp. 243-249.


2) “This monograph presents a new theoretical framework for the explanation and study of cultural conceptualisations and their intimate relationship with language, and discusses its applications. […] In developing and illustrating his framework, the author also draws upon disciplines ranging from anthropological linguistics through to complexity science and cognitive psychology, opening some intriguing perspectives and implications for the study of linguistic and pragmatic phenomena within and across cultures […] Sharifian’s approach is impressive as it is innovative, both in terms of weaving together cutting edge concepts from diverse but complementary disciplines and its relevance to areas as wide-ranging as Cross Cultural Pragmatics, Anthropological Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology.[…] This is an accomplished work that draws upon several exciting and dynamic disciplines to present new perspectives on the intersection between culture, cognition and language, with wide-ranging implications.” — Chris Tang, King’s College London, in Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 66 (2014), pp. 32-34

 


3) “This book develops an exciting and highly innovative theoretical model that is long overdue. By drawing on what are cutting-edge theoretical concepts in several disciplines, including cognitive linguistics, it builds a model that successfully melds together various complementary approaches such as “language as a complex adaptive system” (LCAS), distributed cognition, and multi-agent systems theory. The result is a framework that has significant implications for those working in a multitude of theoretical and applied domains such as cognitive linguistics, cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, anthropological linguistics, intercultural communication, intercultural pragmatics, and political discourse analysis. The manuscript is a pioneering work in many senses. It sets forth a valuable new research initiative which draws on a highly nuanced multi-disciplinarily informed approach that, in turn, is particularly sensitive to the role of culture in linguistic choices and perceptions. I highly recommend the book and believe that it is an excellent way to initiate the series “Cognitive Linguistic Studies in Cultural Contexts”, for it clearly “demonstrates how language as a subsystem of culture transformatively interacts with cognition and how cognition at a cultural level is manifested in language”, as indicated in the description of the book series.” — Roslyn M. Frank, The University of Iowa


4) “The volume under discussion brings together a stimulating collection of articles and book chapters Farzad Sharifian has produced over a period of about eleven years. This is already a contribution on its own as it offers the readers a fully developed theoretical background on cultural conceptualisations, cultural cognition and language, and its application on areas such as intercultural communication, cross-cultural pragmatics, English as an international language, and World Englishes.[…] In this monograph Farzad Sharifian has developed a theoretical model of cultural conceptualisations and language which constitutes an advancement in this emerging area of Cultural Linguistics. […] He starts from the premise that cultural cognition is transmitted through language and is instantiated in the content and use of language; it is reflected in categories, schemas and metaphors. Language (morphosyntax, semantic meaning, pragmatic meaning, discourse features) is entrenched in cultural conceptualisations. […] The application of the model to such case studies constitutes an invaluable tool for different investigations, both theoretical and applied, a central one being that of universality vs. culture-specificity. Overall, the book offers an interesting account of an emerging area of investigation, that of cultural cognition. It is of relevance to scholars interested in the interface of language, culture and mind.” – Angeliki Athanasiadou, in Cognitive Linguistics, vol 24(3), pp. 579-588.